Cincinnati University Surgeons have helped officially launch the state-of-the-art theaters at the Northern Regional Cancer Center in Gulu City. The centre has started conducting delicate surgeries on cancer patients in the region.
Two of the three theaters, fully equipped by the government, underwent a test run by medical experts from the Uganda Cancer Institute (UCI) last week. The center then officially opened its theater doors on Monday with an ongoing one-week free head and neck surgical camp for cancer patients.
Dr. Chad Zender, an ear, nose, and throat surgeon from Cincinnati University in the US revealed to URN that the same medical procedures being offered to the patients cost between $50,000 and $100,000 in health facilities abroad. He says the medical procedure is a lifesaving opportunity for patients in the region who are unable to afford such exorbitant medical expenses.
The Euros 7.5 million Euros (Sh30 billion) Regional Cancer Center partially began outpatient department operations in August and has since been receiving volumes of cancer patients visiting, according to officials.
Dr. Jeff Otiti, the Head of the Surgical Division at UCI told journalists on Tuesday that five patients with cases of gynecology and urology underwent operations last week as the theater was being test run for functionality.
Dr. Otiti says this week, UCI in partnership with expert surgeons from the United States of America extended a free surgical camp for head and neck cancer surgeries.
He notes that while cancer cases are widespread, head and neck cancers are common with most caused by risk factors such as smoking tobacco and excessive drinking of alcohol.
The common types of neck and head cancer that are a growing concern in the region according to Dr. Otiti are cancer of the thyroid, larynx, mouth, throat, and the feeding passage.
Doctors emphasize early screening by people with risk factors of smoking and drinking alcohol to avoid late detection which may sometimes be complicated to treat.
Head and neck cancer presents with symptoms of a lump in the mouth and neck, unending bleeding, sore throat, and hoarseness or voice changes among others.
Dr Ivan Latim, who oversees the Northern Regional Cancer Center said a total of 13 cancer patients had by Monday registered for the neck and head surgical camp from within and outside the region. He says out of the 13 patients, two had scalp cancer, one case of thyroid, and the majority had cancer of the salivary gland.
A total of 126 patients have so far visited the center since it partially opened its doors. 62 patients out of 126 patients were newly diagnosed while the rest were in the care in Kampala but couldn’t afford to continue due to financial constraints.
While the surgical camp is free, it would have cost the patients between sh18 million to sh20 million in private facilities in Uganda to get similar services. Out of the three state-of-the-art theaters, only two are currently being used for surgeries.
Dr. Latim says the common cancer cases registered in the three months since the center opened its doors are cancer of the cervix which constitutes half of the cases, while the rest are cancer of the breast and cancer of the prostate.
The first phase of the cancer center has so far been equipped with state-of-the-art Computed Tomography (CT) scans, Mammogram for breast cancer checks, ultrasound scans, and an x-ray scanner. The government expects to equip the facility with a Radiotherapy bunker in the second phase of construction works.
Cancer remains a burden in the country’s health sector with 2022 statistics from UCI indicating an estimated 33,000 people are diagnosed with cancer annually, but only about 7,400 make it for care. The data however shows a worrying figure that 21,300 people are lost to the disease every year.